PM says Islam is not the problem
7 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has expressed understanding for people who are offended by the link made between Islam and the problems in Dutch society.
7 April 2005
AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has expressed understanding for people who are offended by the link made between Islam and the problems in Dutch society.
"The problem is not Islam but disrespectful behaviour," Balkenende said in Rotterdam on Wednesday.
He was addressing the closing session of the Islam & Integration debates that were held to increase understanding between the native Dutch and Muslim communities in the port city.
In total, nine public debates were held covering the "us-and-them" feeling, work, public safety and discrimination.
Balkenende praised the initiative taken by the city council and he said the debates were an example for many other municipalities, the government website regering.nl said.
"There has been criticism voiced in the last few months. This is part and parcel of a debate. A person who talks with others about his identity, beliefs and place in society makes himself vulnerable. That is courageous. You dared to do this," the prime minister told the audience.
He ended his remarks by saying: "If Muslims always have to defend themselves, we will never come to a solution for the problems … because what is the problem here? Not Islam! But the disrespectful behaviour of certain individuals and groups — both Muslims and non-Muslims".
Balkenende indicated he was a supporter of dealing resolutely with people who incite hatred, intimidate and use violence against others, schools or mosques.
Apparently in a reference to young right-wingers who identify themselves by wearing Lonsdale clothing, he added: "Let this be clear for people who, by their clothing for instance, want to identify themselves with reprehensible doctrines. But also for groups of immigrant youths who behave in an intimidating way".
"Those who try to incite angst in others tear at precisely what we are trying to build together in the Netherlands. This poison must not be allowed to spread," the Christian Democrat CDA leader said.
Balkenende said the acceptance of newcomers into the Netherlands was of great importance. "This is a task for us all: in our local districts, at work, in the street and in the club, everywhere."
Integration, he added, was more than a course of study. "Integration is blending in the greater whole, without denying your identity".
Asked by a teen boy in the audience what the term integration meant, Balkenende stumbled slightly over his words before saying it was about contributing and participating in society.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news